Stories

2018 RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Littlehampton, United Kingdom Cultural January 11 @ 8:17am

Bespoke story and/or images about the flower show, from Celebraty apperances to the best of the gardens.

This year the RHS have made three smart moves for 2018: first, a new evening opening on Friday 25 May (8-10pm) which will give more people a chance to enjoy a balmy (fingers crossed) twilight stroll, when the gardens twinkle invitingly.

Move number two reinvents the Fresh gardens category. This will now be known as Space to Grow, for gardens that offer ‘take home ideas and messages’. There are eight Space to Grow gardens in 2018 and their location brings us to the third move, a nifty rearrangement of the furniture. All eight of these domestic-sized plots will line Royal Hospital Way with their backs to the great Wren building and trade stands opposite - a shrewd nod to the popularity of the Radio 2 gardens in this spot last May.

That leaves eight Artisan gardens in their usual site on Serpentine Walk, spilling over into Ranelagh Gardens.

On Main Avenue, the 10 show gardens make a respectable presence and bring some intriguing new names to appear alongside popular veterans in the lineup of designers. The best bet for real star power is Sarah Price, back at Chelsea after a five year hiatus producing two children. Sarah is well known for her contribution to the Olympic Park planting in 2012 (she also won Chelsea gold for the Telegraph that year).

Her garden for M&G, overall show sponsors for another three years, will occupy the traditional corner site on Main Avenue. She promises “a romanticised Mediterranean haven ... primarily made up of water, planting and earth.”

This flagship display will be built by veteran medal winners Crocus. Just one show garden is small potatoes for Crocus, so expect news in January to reveal more about their involvement in a high profile project in the Great Pavilion - a big designer name may also be involved. Also still to be announced is the (unjudged) RHS feature garden.

Familiar faces on Main Avenue include Chris Beardshaw for Morgan Stanley. His garden flags up the work of charity partner the NSPCC, so expect an attractive, child-friendly garden. Beardshaw always manages to strike a chord that inspires visitors.

Jo Thompson is back. Her sponsors, Wedgwood, dipped into the garden world for the first time at Chatsworth Flower Show earlier this year and must have noted that Jo won the popular vote. She promises a modern interpretation of a tea garden, with a copper pavilion over water plus a link with Allan McRobie, author of The Seduction of Curves.

Hay Hwang returns for her second garden with LG Electronics. Last year her gadget-led outdoor kitchen and living space attracted plenty of attention. Many non-gardeners liked her positive approach to technology in urban spaces (where, after all, most of us live). This year she promises solar powered lights and an aquaponics growing system.

Also well known are Laurie Chetwood and Patrick Collins, back with Chinese sponsor Creativersal. Their design for 2018, on the Triangle site at the end of Main Avenue again, is based on the lotus flower. The duo seem to have mastered the art of using this awkward site to show off highly photogenic installations.

Mark Gregory is the last of the ‘old hands’ with a show garden for Welcome to Yorkshire. The master builder behind a slew of medal winning gardens, via his company Landform, Gregory’s show garden will celebrate the Yorkshire dales with a buttercup meadow, stone walls, a cottage garden and artisan cheese maker.

Several new names deserve a medal for stepping up to the challenge of the Chelsea fish bowl: Jonathan Snow is a Chelsea first-timer who is plunging in with sponsor Trailfinders to create a South African-inspired garden. This will be a snapshot of the traditional Western Cape wine estate, with Dutch style architecture and neatly ordered garden, set in a native fynbos landscape.

Nic Howard has built up a successful garden design practice in Surrey and has a reputation as a behind-the-scenes magician who can transform a trade stand into a mini event to rival a show garden. This year he pops up on Main Ave courtesy of sponsors Savills and David Harber (of sundials fame). He promises a a garden of sculpture that will ‘symbolise different periods of mankind’s development.’

Tom Massey earned his stripes with gold and silver-gilt medals at Hampton Court. He has conceived a Chelsea garden based on visits to refugee camps in Iraq with charity the Lemon Tree Trust, which supports the development of agriculture for refugees and displaced people. Tom highlights the resourceful, space- and water-saving approach to gardening that is born of necessity for people trying to make a home for themselves. Herbs and edible plants feature.

Finally, designer Stuart Charles Towner, along with sponsor VTB Capital, is also new to Chelsea but Stuart has won silver gilt and gold at Hampton Court, so he’s not an unknown quantity. His ‘Spirit of Cornwall’ garden is ambitious, promising a ‘multi sensory experience’ inspired by the work of British sculptor Barbara Hepworth.

Small gardens and Great Pavilion highlights
Kate Gould’s Best Fresh Garden two-storey town garden knocked competition out of the park last year. She’s back in 2018 with a West End Secret Garden that uses smart eco-technology. Much as she’d like to do a show garden, Gould says it’s still a very difficult leap to find the right sponsor.

Designer Dr Catherine MacDonald has moved up in size from the Artisan to Space to Grow category this year, and she celebrates the pea family in her plot for sponsor Seedlip, which sounds horticulturally bold. The Pearlfisher’s Garden, an underwater garden designed by John Warland, stands out for sheer novelty value - and could easily be stunning.

Among the Artisan gardens, last year’s favourite designer, Kayuyuki Ishihara, is back with a garden inspired by a Japanese concept of hospitality. Sarah Eberle, with new sponsor the British Indian Council, is making a garden inspired by one of India’s greatest cricketers, Sachin Tendulkar. The layout is traditionally Mughal in form, but the rill is replaced by the ‘crease’ and the temple columns by stumps.

In the Great Pavilion it’s good to see new exhibitors such as Flowers from the Farm. This not-for-profit volunteer network brings together British cut flower growers to market their produce. Kells Bay House and Garden marks its 10th anniversary with a first-time display; other anniversaries include D’Arcy & Everest (25 years) and Hampshire Carnivorous Plants (20 years). Peter Beales Roses will mark their 50th with a new rose. In all, there will be more than 90 exhibits in the Great Pavilion.
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